Today is the day I am starting my tour of Canada in short stories. Between now and the 1st of July (Canada Day), I will visit each of the thirteen provinces and territories with a short story, starting on the East coast and going westward. I thus started with Newfoundland and Labrador. None of my anthologies contained stories from this province. I was thinking Kathleen Winter, or her brother Michael Winter, but did not manage to find anything online. Then, John at The Book Mine Set suggested “Humanesque” by Jessica Grant, who recently published her first novel Come, Thou Tortoise. He reviewed this story a while ago and has a link to the story on his review. If, like me, you are denied access, you can also find it on Google Books.
This is all very good, but I don’t know what to say about this story. I have just finished it and I am scratching my head. A quirky narrator who makes weird connections, a Doctor who does research on pigeons, a little girl who plays at being Ben Laden (first time I encounter a reference to 9/11 in literature) and an army man who has read Thomas Pynchon; these are the characters in this story. It is a weird story, but then, I like weird. What did I miss? or is it just one of those stories that will have you pondering indefinitely?
The story is fast-paced, like our modern life. The narrator’s ideas come one after another and seem at first disconnected, which gives a shapeless structure to the narrative. Its title, of course, suggests the human shape, that shape the pigeons peck at in Dr Tiplitski’s experiments, and perhaps the story suggests that humans have become shapeless objects. Dr Tiplitski says:
“Plato said that every object is an imperfect imitation of the ideal. Every table aspires to be table-esque. To be the idea of table.”
Every human aspires to be human-esque, but none of us are and in this modern world we might have become even further removed from the ideal.
I surely need to read this again and I will. There is a lot packed in those few pages and I would say new readings will bring new meanings. I actually think I will get the collection. I do not really like reading online and this story makes me want to read more of her stories. I therefore conclude that it is a good story, not one for readers who like to have everything nicely tied up, but it will certainly please readers who like to be left perplexed by a story (I love that and, for me, it is a sign of a good story).
What else can I say? Just go and have a look for yourself.